I didn’t have the space in Wednesday’s paper to get into the
simmering Tacoma Narrows Bridge toll controversy, other than to say
there’ll be a meeting on Tuesday in Gig Harbor.
For a difference of 50 cents per crossing, things are really
heating up. The citizen advisory group recommended that electronic
tolls stay at $2.75; the Transportation Commission wants $3.25.
The latest episode is that local legislators had asked for meetings
in Port Orchard and Gig Harbor where the state treasurer could
explain his new “framework” to the public and the Transportation
Commission could back up their proposal. Treasurer Jim MacIntire
wants to maintain a higher reserve than the citizen group has done
in the past. The Narrows doesn’t need it, but it will look good
when the state is trying to get the lowest bond rates for future
After those meetings, the citizen group would meet to decide
whether to stand its ground or fall in with the Transportation
Sen. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor,
and Rep. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, were pretty ticked off when
they found out the first two meetings weren’t scheduled, only the
citizen group meeting (5-7 p.m., Civic Center).
“The people need to understand what is happening here,” Angel said.
“That’s what we wanted more than anything, a meeting that would
provide that information to the public.
“The three of us are greatly disappointed. They’re not paying any
attention to us. They’re going to do what they want to do and just
let it go.”
“I’m disappointed we’re not offering our citizens a chance to
understand this proposal,” Seaquist said. “Sen. Kilmer, Rep. Angel
and I remain opposed to it.”
It looks like the Transportation Commission is trying to combine
the three meetings into one. The treasurer will speak, Commissioner
Dan O’Neal will explain the Transportation Commission’s position
and then the citizen group will decide.
Reema Griffith, the Transportation Commission’s administrator, said
the commission won’t host any public meetings until it has an
actual rate proposal and the financial plan that goes with it. The
members are wrestling with whether the treasurer’s 110 percent
coverage factor is the right thing to do. They’re not unanimous on
that, she said.
“It’s currently premature for the commission to publicly host
anything,” she said. “We’re not sure what we’re going to say is the
right path to take on this.”
The commission made its $3.25/$5 proposal to get the citizen
group’s reaction, she said. It’s probably on the higher end of what
“There’s plenty of room for discussion,” she said. “We’re far from
committed to it. We’re getting reaction from the treasurer and
we’re going to get reaction from the CAC.”
Griffith does side with the treasurer that tolls policy must be
consistent statewide, so this decision has implications for future
“The bottom line is it’s all in flux right now,” she said. “We’re
trying to assure people it’s not a done deal, that the horse hasn’t
left the barn.”
After Tuesday’s meeting, the citizen group will report back to the
Transportation Commission at its Feb. 16-17 meeting and the
commission will decide on the number of local public input
meetings. The commission will release its official toll proposal at
its March 16-17 meeting, hold public input meetings in April and
hold its final rate hearing where it will enact the rates in late
May. They will go into effect on July 1.